- Michael Smith Laboratories
- Advanced Molecular Biology Laboratory (AMBL)
I am responsible for the ongoing supervision of the Advanced Molecular Biology Laboratory (AMBL) at The University of British Columbia. This is the educational arm of the Michael Smith Laboratories, first conceived by the late Nobel Laureate, Dr. Michael Smith to provide science learning experiences for both general public and scientific communities. This includes a bifocal mandate to train scientists (university students and faculty) in areas of my specific expertise, and to inform the public at large on the societal, cultural, corporate, political, economic, and ethical nuances of the general sciences, and life sciences in particular.
As I have had the opportunity to interact and participate in a research intensive group that represents a wide and diverse range of prominent scientific fields, I find that I have become very well versed in many multidisciplinary aspects of science. This knowledge base has been invaluable to the development of my university courses, as well as outreach, and professional initiatives. As well, I have been privileged to work with wide range of different audiences, including those from the high school community, business community, environmental community, media representatives, political circles, students in Third World contexts, and even clergy (on stem cells no less) – all with the result of my gaining valuable perspective and insight into the issues at hand.
My predecessor, with a strong mandate from Dr. Michael Smith began work on initiating an outreach program aimed primarily at high school teachers. At this early stage, the program was generally limited to a few workshops held annually to invited teachers from the lower mainland. Upon arriving in 1999, I saw this program as an excellent opportunity to promote enthusiasm in science and to increase public awareness of the possible impact that this science will create on everyday life. This is an especially important goal given the explosion of genetic technologies in only the last 5 years. In this respect, AMBL has taken the charge at continuing to provide excellent, accessible and free learning experiences to the general public and particularly to the high school communities, culminating in the provision of direct laboratory experiences to over 3000 high school students each year.
In the last year and a half, I have been focusing some of my efforts in becoming an established writer with projects that include magazine publications, a non-fiction science book project, as well as a literary science writing website The Science Creative Quarterly. The online project, in particular, has been doing remarkably well and currently represents about 2% of all website traffic coming into UBC. It is hoped that these ventures will continue to increase my public role as a science educator.
During the last year or so, I have been a project co-leader in a UBC wide educational project that seeks to bridge conceptual gaps between Arts and Science audiences. Called “Terry,” this project can be summarized as follows: “The Terry project is a joint initiative of the University of British Columbia’s Faculties of Arts and Science with a strong collaboration with VP Students Portfolio (as well as many others including those from groups as diverse as UBC Office of Sustainability and UBC Community Affairs). Its primary mission is to educate members of the UBC community (notably undergraduate students) on the pressing global issues of our time. This has encompassed a website, design of a future interdisciplinary course addressing global issues, and delivery of our speaker’s series showcasing high profile (and engaging) academics, cognoscenti, and proactive members of our global community. By creating a synergistic forum that addresses topics such as climate change, sustainability, GMOs and AIDS, we hope to stress the importance of multi-disciplinary learning, thus inspiring students to actively pursue university educations that will assist them in developing and promoting just, civil, and sustainable societies throughout the world.” This project has been wonderful for me, in that it has enabled me to form relations with colleagues from a wide range of Faculty of Arts disciplines, including History, Philosophy, Creative Writing, Architecture, and Political Science.
In addition, my involvement has allowed me to further develop science expertise outside my geneticist hat. Finally, I should note that AMBL is at a stage where it is interested in pursuing educational projects that would have an impact in aiding towards reaching the U.N. Millennium Development Goals. In that regard, I invite anyone or any group with similar interests or intentions to chat.
Science education, outreach
To learn more about the AMBL, please visit bioteach.ubc.ca.